Sony Beta SL-F30UB video casette recorder, 1985.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Betamax VCR manufactured by Sony, Japan. In 1974 the Sony corporation released the first VCR on the market, heralding the arrival of the video age. The name 'Betamax' originated from the shape of the tape path in the new loading system, which closely resembled the Greek letter beta when seen from above. Max, a shortening of maximum, was then added to suggest greatnes. Sony's VCR could be connected to a television and used to record up to an hour of video and audio on tape. The time-shift function allowed consumers to record whatever programs they liked and watch them at their leisure. In 1976, rivals JVC came out with their own VHS format VCR, which doubled the recording time available, and within a decade the Betamax had become virtually obsolete.